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Thankfulness is in the air…

by the Rev. Heather Melton, UTO Staff Officer

For those of us in the United States, November is an easy month to talk about gratitude in our churches and communities. Here in New York, Thanksgiving often gets overlooked, as Christmas decorations start appearing well before Halloween. It‘s too bad because Thanksgiving is a great holiday, especially for those of us who participate in the daily spiritual discipline of gratitude. With that said, I’ve noticed a renewed interest in gratitude. Just this past week, I was in Target and found items in the dollar section that would make great Ingathering decorations (if only they were blue!) and “gratitude” notecards. I don’t remember seeing things like this in the past, but I was really encouraged to see that Thanksgiving wasn’t totally losing out to Halloween and Christmas.

Personally, I love Thanksgiving; my husband will tell you that I go a little overboard with the festivities, but that might be because he doesn’t like turkey. It is a perfect holiday. Thanksgiving is simply about being together, enjoying a good meal, and giving thanks for all of the good things that have happened in the previous year. What bring us together are love and gratitude, all cemented in place by dishes made with love and care from recipes handed down through the generations. What could be better than this? Many families invite people to say what they are thankful for at some point on Thanksgiving; this is a great time to pass a Blue Box around, or even pass them out for your family to take home with them. Last year about this time, I was sitting at my desk and looking for Thanksgiving toddler crafts, and what I ended up doing was turning my Blue Box into a turkey with my kids. If you want to turn your Blue Box into a turkey, please visit this website. You’ll find lesson plans, sermon ideas, and other tools to take the turkey box idea to your congregation. It’s a great time of year to introduce UTO to others, and there’s never a better time than now to teach gratitude to our children!

I would be remiss if I didn’t close by saying thanks to all of you – you are at the top of my Thanksgiving thankfulness list this year. Thanks to all of you who have sent me such great thank-you notes in response to the e-newsletter! As you can guess, it is still a work in process, but I am grateful for the story ideas, stories, photos, and connections that the e-news has already inspired. Please keep sharing with me! This newsletter is only as strong as the uplifting stories you share about promoting UTO, living a grateful life, and putting UTO grants to work in your communities. Thank you for all of the great work you do to promote UTO. I truly believe that if we could teach everyone to practice the daily spiritual discipline of gratitude, the world would be a better and different place, so thank you for participating in this good and important work.

Ingathering Idea from the Diocese of East Tennessee

With Diane S. Livermore, UTO Chair, St. James Episcopal Church, Knoxville, Tennessee

This month, we want to share with you one way to promote UTO grants in your congregation by reporting on grants that dioceses have received. Diane Livermore contacted our office to ask about the 2016 grant to East Tennessee and then did her own research so she could share with her congregation how the funds given to UTO are impacting them locally. On November 20, St. James will host its Ingathering, and we know that with Diane’s care it will be a huge success. Diane is helping to make UTO grants relevant to her congregation as a way to inspire giving. The following is Diane’s account of what the UTO grant to her diocese means to the camp.

At this time, I would like to share with you a special grant the Diocese of East Tennessee has received this year from the United Thank Offering. It is a grant of $22,775 for Grace Point Camp and Retreat Center. This grant will be used to remodel an old barn on the property into an outdoor education center. The barn will be modified to have a large classroom that provides hands-on experience for participants. This will include a space for animals such as goats, chickens, honeybees, etc. Grace Point property, which includes over 250 acres and more than two miles of lakefront, has an immense amount of wildlife, ranging from osprey, turkeys, deer, red fox, coyotes, and American bald eagles to a variety of aquatic animals. This project will educate participants about how all species are important in our environment and will provide them with the opportunity to explore how everything plays a vital role in creation. During the summer months, the project will serve all campers, including children from the inner city and children with incarcerated family members. Throughout the rest of the year, the program will be marketed to youth groups, environmental groups, scouting groups, and school systems. What a tremendous gift this is for our diocese! Please remember that our change changes lives, and give generously in response to the blessings God has given you.

Grant Site Update: Saint Francis Community Services, Salina KS

by Lindsey Decker, Administrative Services Manager

Thanks to a $25,000 United Thank Offering grant, children at Saint Francis Community Services’ Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF) and Youth Residential Center (YRC) in Salina, Kansas, will have a garden to nourish them both physically and spiritually. The “Peace Garden” project provides for the construction of a greenhouse, where children at the PRTF and YRC can grow fresh, nutritious produce year-round as they heal from trauma and other behavioral health issues.

A child and family services ministry for more than 70 years, Saint Francis has always supported a holistic approach to healing – in body, mind, and spirit. The Peace Garden will provide children and youth ages 6-18 a hands-on opportunity to learn, while enjoying the therapeutic benefits of the natural world. They will learn to work with others cooperatively and acquire skills they can take with them when they leave – all within a peaceful, life-affirming environment.

To support that environment, part of the grant will also fund benches placed around the garden so young people can spend quiet time alone or visit with family and staff.

“The garden gives the children a peaceful place to cope,” said Darrin Sewell, director of admissions. “That’s important to us. We’re always considering what we can do to make their situation better when they leave this structured environment. That’s why this grant is such a blessing to Saint Francis and to the children we serve.”

Trish Bryant, vice president of children and family services, says she’s thrilled with the opportunity the garden gives children to learn, to grow, and to heal.

“The importance of this UTO grant cannot be overstated,” she said. “Through it, children will learn about food production and healthy choices. For many, it will be their first experience with growing food. Most importantly, though, it gives them a sacred space where they can heal. We’re so grateful for that.”

To learn more about Saint Francis Community Services’ ministry to children and families visit

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Friday, November 4, 2016 at 5 p.m. Eastern Time –
Deadline for submission of Young Adult and Seminarian Grant applications

Friday, December 2, 2016 –
The focus and criteria for the 2017 UTO Grants, as well as the applications, will be available on the UTO webpage

Friday, December 30, 2016 –
Last day to mail in UTO Ingathering checks so they count toward the 2016 Ingathering

Friday, March 3, 2017, 5 p.m. Eastern Time –
Deadline for submission of UTO Grant applications

Planning Thanksgiving activities at your church? Don’t forget the Blue Box Turkey!

As families and friends gather for Thanksgiving, it’s a great time to bring out your Blue Box and have everyone share what they are thankful for from the past year. To help parishes prepare for Thanksgiving, we’re offering materials for Sunday School groups (or even an intergenerational educational program) to turn the Blue Box into a turkey for the month of November. Lesson plans, supplies, and more can be found here.


#UTO30DaysofThankfulness on Facebook
Join us on Facebook each day this month for a quick question about what you are thankful for that day.  Comment with a photo or a few words as part of Facebook community.

UTO Grant Sites Featured on Episcopal News Service Last Month:
Video: Presiding Bishop speaks at Rome’s Joel Nafuma Refugee Center


Looking for more information?

Be sure to check out our webpage for all of the latest videos, news, and resources about UTO.

Our blog also offers tons of resources for supporting UTO in your parish or diocese, from sample bulletin inserts and newsletters to hymn suggestions at an ingathering.

Follow us on Facebook for weekly updates and grant stories.

Order UTO materials here.